Sunday, April 14, 2024

Agenda 2050: Experts differ over FG’s plan to unlock Nigeria’s vast economic potential

BY FESTUS OKOROMADU

The Nigeria Agenda 2050 is a long-term blueprint designed to unlock the country’s potentials in all sectors of the economy for a sustainable, holistic and inclusive national development.

Initiated by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the plan was a successor to the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, 2017-2020, which lapsed in December 2020.

Though facilitated by the Federal Government, the economic development plan is a collaborative venture involving the private sector, state governments and the civil society organizations. It strives to bring about socio-economic transformation of the country as envisioned in the long-term agenda.

As usual such noble aspiration can only succeed with the full acceptance and participation of concerned citizens and the cooperation of citizens.

In terms of actualising this long-term development plan which has been segmented into medium and short-term plans, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group has been in the vanguard of the pursuit.

The Group in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance has created a forum for the government and private sector operators to dialogue, evaluate and strategize with the aim of developing fiscal policies for optimal fulfillment of the national development plan.

Last week, the Minister, Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, in conjunction with the NESG organised a world press conference to announce plans for the 2023 edition of the annual event tagged, ‘Nigerian Economic Summit’.

Bagudu noted that the summit has become the largest and foremost annual convergence for public sector policy makers and private sector industry leaders in Nigeria.

He added that apart from bringing together development partners, civil society organizations and representatives of the academia, the forum also provides participants with the unique opportunity for consensus building, identifying development challenges facing the country and proffering implementable strategies and policy framework for addressing them.

Reflecting on the appropriateness of themes of the previous editions and how they relate to socio-economic development, the Minister noted that the last edition which was the 28th in the series focused on electoral 2023 and Beyond: Priorities for Shared Prosperity.

“Overall, the main target of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 is to increase the country’s per capita GDP to $6,000 and $33,000 by 2030 and 2050 respectively”

He noted that the theme was important given the fact that the summit was held on the heels of the preparation for the 7th successful political transition and the urgent need to set priorities for the new administration that was billed to assume power on May 29, 2023.

“It also provided a timely opportunity for a national economic review and created unanimity amongst all Nigerians on the need for us to actively prioritise the pursuit of economic growth that can sustainably create jobs, lift millions out of poverty and enable Nigeria to realise its economic potentials,” Bagudu stated.

In the 2023 edition, the Minister said the theme of the 29th Nigerian Economic Summit is “Pathways to Sustainable Economic Transformation and Inclusion.”

According to him, the theme was chosen to discuss the imperatives for transforming the nation’s economy while ensuring inclusivity.

“The discussions around the theme will be dimensioned across five sub-themes; namely, Stimulating Economic Growth; Mobilizing Finance for Sustainable Development; Harnessing Human Capital Development; Promoting National Cohesion & Inclusion; and Reforming Public Institution,” he stated.

He insisted that the success of the summit will depend on the active and deliberate participation of all critical stakeholders; including, the Federal Government, sub-national government, private sector operators, civil society organizations, the media and development partners.

Speaking to how the summit will stay focused on achieving the national development plan vis-à-vis President Bola Tinubu’s economic programmes, Bagudu said, “The sub-themes address relevant pillars in the National Development Plan 2021-2025, the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Renewed Hope Agenda.

It is expected that the outcomes from this important national dialogue will send a strong message on the avowed commitment of the current administration for effective collaboration with the private sector in achieving a sustainable and inclusive economic transformation.

“The goals of Sustainable Economic Development as encapsulated in the country’s perspective Plan, tagged the Nigeria Agenda 2050, include; a stable and predictable macroeconomic environment, adopting policies that are consistent with raising domestic savings and investment, creating an enabling and conducive business environment, achieving concentric economic diversification, achieving sustainable growth, promoting productivity and industrial development.

“The other goals include addressing demographic issues, and dealing with social problems such as poverty, unemployment and inequality, as well as the expansion of fiscal space through improved revenue generation and promotion of good governance. It is also intended to provide a modern and efficient infrastructure, promote the expansion of the private sector through deliberate policies for the formalization of the informal sector, and ensure good governance.

“Overall, the main target of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 is to increase the country’s per capita GDP to $6,000 and $33,000 by 2030 and 2050 respectively. It will also bring the poverty rate to 0.6% and unemployment rate to 6.3 percent, while transiting the economy to the highest per capita GDP in the Group of upper-middle income economies. The Plan will be effectively implemented by successive governments through six number 5-Year Medium-Term National Development Plans and Annual Budgets,” Bagudu added.

The Minister insisted that the Renewed Hope Agenda and 8 Priority Areas of the President Tinubu’s administration are aimed at fast-tracking the goals of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the National Development Plan 2021-2025 with a double-digit growth rate and inclusive development.

He announced that his ministry was in the process of conducting the mid-term review of the NDP 2021-2025 with the purpose of fine-tuning the Plan and ensuring that the Renewed Hope Agenda of the current Government is incorporated into the NDP 2021-2025.

He added that the ministry will welcome innovative ideas from the stakeholders at the summit to ensure its effective integration into the NDP 2021-2025.

“The Pathways to Sustainable Economic Transformation and Inclusion in Nigeria lie in innovative policies, robust workable institutions, strategic investments in infrastructure, up-skilling our human capital, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, and leveraging digital technology. Through targeted reforms, increased transparency, and good governance, Nigeria can unlock its immense economic potential, attract foreign investments, equip our youth with the skills and resources they need to leverage the opportunities of this digital era, and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

“Therefore, the 29th Nigerian Economic Summit seeks to inspire confidence in the Nigerian economy to drive job creation, economic growth and the realization of Nigeria’s economic potentials; Collectively design and prioritize strategies to unlock untapped potentials, foster sustainable economic transformation and promote shared prosperity for the nation; Cultivate a people and technology-centered approach to addressing emerging trends, shaping a future of inclusive and sustainable economic growth for Nigeria; Facilitate the implementation of reforms to promote investor confidence, attract FDI, and provide incentives for private sector participation in economic and social development; and Facilitate discussions and actions towards attracting capital to support sustainable economic development initiatives,” he added.

In his welcome address, the Chairman NESG, Olaniyi Yusuf said Nigeria is currently confronted by critical challenges that demand equitable and resilient economic development.

The country, he said, stands at a unique juncture to chart a course towards shared prosperity and overcome long-standing obstacles that have impeded our socio-economic progress.

“In the face of a rapidly changing global economic landscape and increasing inequalities, a strategy for sustained growth must ensure a form of industrialization that makes opportunities accessible to all people and broadly distributes income and non-income gains across society.

“Our inability to fully integrate solutions to social issues into targeted industrial and economic policies undermines the developmental potential of our country, thus widening income inequality gaps,” Yusuf said.

He noted that while there has been a broad decline in poverty worldwide, both extreme and moderate poverty remain and continue to increase in the country.

He insisted that low productivity, inadequately diversified local economic activity, high unemployment rates and job insecurity remain a challenge for the country.

Yusuf added that with a predominantly young population and a high debt burden, Nigeria must chart a trajectory that ensures inter-generational and sustainable growth.

“The nation has encountered various economic and political obstacles in recent years, underscoring the urgent need to redesign its systems and address structural issues.

“One of Nigeria’s pressing concerns is the need to translate economic growth into improved living standards for all its citizens,” he stated.

While warning of the urgent need to fashion practical solutions to the economic transformation of the country, Yusuf said, “These challenges are worsened by an uneven allocation of resources, macroeconomic instability, and institutional deficiencies.”

He validated his views with government data, when he said, “Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2022 revealed that approximately 62.9 percent of the population (i.e., 133 million people) live in multidimensional poverty, threatening the development of a vibrant middle class.”

However, the NESG chairman is optimistic as he sees huge opportunities in the situation.

He noted that, “Nigeria’s youthful population presents a tremendous opportunity for accelerating national development through entrepreneurship and innovation. With a large pool of creative and ambitious young minds, the country has the potential to foster a vibrant start-up ecosystem and drive economic growth.

“By leveraging technology and innovation, these creative minds can introduce disruptive solutions, create jobs, and contribute to the overall progress of the Nigerian economy 2023 presents another opportunity to demonstrate a strong political will to tackle Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges.”

On what the NESG has to offer in terms of resolving the challenges in hand in relation to achieving the national development plan, he said, “The NESG aims to focus on enhancing the role of entrepreneurship, skills and innovation, as well as sub-national and local governments, as drivers of economic growth and development. The ultimate objective is to foster the creation of a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable economy.”

According to him, the 2023 Summit aims to foster collaboration among key stakeholders from diverse sectors and devise effective strategies to promote good governance at all levels of government.

“Nigerians are good at organising workshops and forums but how much that has helped our economic development, I don’t know. The ordinary Nigerian today is even more worried about his or her security. Where there is no security, how do you expect the economy to thrive?”

“By establishing a robust and enduring economy, the summit endeavours to address the socio-economic challenges faced by the country and ensure the continuation of valuable ideas, building upon the outcomes of previous economic summits to transform Nigeria into a strong, inclusive, prosperous, corrupt-free, and globally competitive and sustainable economy.”

He described the collaboration between his group and the Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning in hosting the summit as a partnership at the cusp of producing the outcomes and impacts that will set Nigeria on the path of economic recovery and sustainable development.

Expatiating on the how the group hopes to achieve its goals through the summit, he said, “In preparation for the Summit, we are jointly hosting six Pre-Summit events between September and October across sectors and thematic areas, including Health Policy, Marine and the Blue Economy, Education, Investment, Financial Inclusion, and Infrastructure.

“These events have kick-started the Summit discussions and will be examined in further detail at the Summit, with outcomes reflected in the report of the 29th Summit, which we call the NES #29 Green Book.

“Throughout this Summit, we will prioritise strategic collaborations, evidence-based policies, data-driven metrics, and human talent development to drive economic progress, focusing on the role of technology and innovation and sub-national and local governments as drivers of economic growth and development. In closing, I thank the media for being here today and for their hard work over the last 30 years in shaping the development process of our dear country,” he said.

However, the government seems to have a huge task ahead in terms of getting the citizenry to buy into the idea of transforming the economic landscape through these collaborations.

An economist, Bayo Ayoride, who spoke with our correspondent on how the national development plan can be used for the transformation it was designed to do, noted that the problem is not policy design but the implementation.

He noted that the NESG and the government officers who are expected to gather at the forum will end up doing the usual, ‘a talk shop.’

“The problem is not with drawing good policies while sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned conference hall, the challenge is in how we get the ordinary Nigerians who are artisans to be participants in such talk shows and provide the necessary environment for them to operate.

“Nigerians are good at organising workshops and forums but how much that has helped our economic development, I don’t know. The ordinary Nigerian today is even more worried about his or her security. Where there is no security, how do you expect the economy to thrive?” he queried.

Another expert, Mike Adakre, noted that in 2021 when the Federal Government announced the National Economic Development Plan, it was claimed that it act as a guide to four strategic objectives, namely; establishing a strong foundation for a concentric diversified economy; investment in critical physical, financial, science and innovation infrastructure; building a solid framework and enhance capacities to strengthen security and ensure good governance; and enabling a vibrant, educated and healthy populace.

The government, he said, assured that it will during the period focus on sectors with great potential to generate jobs for our people and with multiplier effects on other sectors.

“In specific, it was stated that with effective implementation of the plan by 2025 the country is expected to achieve average economic growth of 4.6 percent, in addition to lifting 35 million people out of poverty and creating 21 million full-time jobs. It was also expected that our revenue to GDP ratio would have risen to 15 percent as well as improve the health and education of the population.

“Barely two years to the end of the period what have we truly achieved, more people drifting into poverty, soaring cost of living, Nigerians running away from their country.

“The government needs to do more than just talk. People are eagerly waiting to see concrete actions as the situation is getting worse for the ordinary people every day,” he submitted.

While there are divergent views as to the ability of government and the organised private sector to actualise the objectives of the National Development Plan, it is obvious that deployment of a robust implementation framework will promote performance and accountability in the execution of the goals.

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